Author Topic: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed  (Read 7059 times)

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Offline kenners

portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« on: October 10, 2009, 06:44:08 pm »
Hey guys,

I've been searching through the forums and can see there's loads of good advice out there and a lot of people are in the know. I was wondering if you'd mind giving me some pointers on my (vague) itinerary as I'm new to North America (British) and not been on a long cycling trip yet. So basically need some heads up on realistic time frames and set ups etc.

I've always wanted to drive the west coast USA and the other day I suddenly thought why drive it when I can cycle it. When I was living in Manchester, UK I cycled everywhere and I do miss riding a road bike so much (just moved to Banff).

So the proposed idea is cycling from Portland - San Francisco post spring. Thinking May/June. What's a realistic amount of time to do this in, given that I? want to take in the sights? Originally I intended to lift share my way down to SF from Vancouver stopping off as and when over a period of 1-2 months. Is the weather good at this time of year?

What would you recommend the best set up would be? I saw a thread which sparked the cogs turning. I've only ever cycled in Berlin and Manchester, both of which are flat cities. I normally also only cycle road bikes, too, so would I be able to do this all on a road bike given that hills aren't something I'm used to (I consider myself fit, in twenties). I plan to buy a bike when in Portland. Figured there's plenty of cyclists there and must be someone I can buy a bike and pannier racks off second hand, rather than me buying in Alberta.

Given that I'm gonna have to start saving for this trip and I haven't been to the states since the late 80s, what do you reckon is a realistic budget for camping down through Oregon - SF. I know people in the cities so not worried about there, would just like to get a rough idea of how much is expected for campsites. Saw a thread saying $4p/n?

Okay sorry if some of this has already been answered. Reading the other threads has made me more and more adamant to do this. I just feel I need some kinda pointer on what kind of time frame is realistic to cover such a distance.

Thanks for your heads up and maybe see some of you on the road!

Offline staehpj1

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #1 on: October 11, 2009, 11:07:17 am »
Most folks probably take between 10 and 20 days.   I think the Kirkendall and Spring book has this at about 15 days for that section if you use their listed days and stops.  I think a good portion of the folks on the route do exactly that so if you do you can expect to meet the same folks every day, which can be nice.

I'd recommend getting either a copy of Bicycling the Pacific Coast by Spring and Kirkendall or the Adventure Cycling maps for the route.  I think the Kirkendall and Spring book is great, but it is out of print.  Try to find the Fourth Edition many of the ones for sale are the 3rd edition and a bit out of date.

I have only ridden a small portion of the route and driven  some more of it, but from what I have seen it is a beautiful ride.

Offline johnsondasw

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #2 on: October 11, 2009, 02:44:23 pm »
We die that part in about 11 days.  It's very hilly, but worth every mile of it.  It really helps to get the book Staephi recommends.  Also ACA maps are available for the ride. May and June are good, and you should have tailwinds most of the time.  In 2005, campgrounds were $4/nignt in Oregon, and varied in California from $2 to $5--showers were usually a couple of quarters.  If possilble, I would think about going farther south.  Some of the best riding is from Carmel to Santa Barbara.  For all of it, you need a bike with low gearing; it's roller-coaster up and down most of the time. 
May the wind be at your back!

Offline CMajernik

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #3 on: October 12, 2009, 03:46:00 pm »
The OR and CA state parks often have hiker/biker sites so that's the cheapest way to go though I'm not sure what the sites cost. Any commercial campground will be much more expensive, especially since the coast is a tourist destination. In June tourist traffic increases with children being out of school so families are beginning to travel in that month.
Carla Majernik
Routes and Mapping Program Director

Adventure Cycling Association
Inspiring people of all ages to travel by bicycle.
800/755-2453, 406/721-1776 x218, 406/721-8754 fax

Follow Routes & Mapping on Twitter: @acaroutes

Offline kenners

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #4 on: October 15, 2009, 09:57:04 am »
cheers for the advice guys! i'll definitely try get a copy of the book.

the more i think about it the more i wanna do it. can't imagine how satisfying it'd be to see SF on the horzion knowing you'd cycled there.

thanks again!

Offline dfege

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #5 on: November 03, 2009, 12:36:38 am »
I have bicycled the Oregon and northern California coasts several times, the latest was this past summer.  For maps I definintely recommend the combination of the ACA maps and the Kirkendall book (Bicycling the Pacific Coast, available at  They complement each other very well.  The state campgrounds on the Oregon Coast are awesome.  They have hiker-biker sites, and you don't need reservations.  They were $4/night and showers were free.  This fall California raised their prices to $10/night (I think).  In California campgrounds, you'll need quarters for showers, generally two quarters are adequate.  As mentioned in a previous post, private campgrounds are much more expenisive (think $20-$30)...I usually do that route in fourteen days.  That gives you some time to take some hikes, visit lighthouses, and simply get off your bike and enjoy the scenery.

Offline psemler

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2009, 12:33:28 am »
Take 2 weeks. All state beaches are $4/ night in the hiker/biker sites plus fifty cents for a good shower. I would recommend taking at least 2-3 layover days. A good place to stay and drink beer and chill is Mendicino. I also liked Gold Beach in Oregon. Make sure you stay at Sam Taylor on the last night. It's just 30 miles to SF and you can stay in the hostel in Fort Mason, just over the Golden Gate Bridge.
I've done the trip 3 times. If you can, keep riding 10 days to San Diego/Mexico. It's so differerent than OR and N Calif. The weather is much warmer and you can actually visit the beach. In may and June it can be quite cold foggy and mesirable in Or and N Calif along the coast. A lot of people don't know that. The best time to ride is Sept (a lot less dangereous RVs then)

Offline BikerGal

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #7 on: March 09, 2010, 10:50:45 pm »
I live in Portland and have ridden the coast what seems like gazillions of times. Watch out for the weather in May. It can be rainy and cool still, which translates to downright cold on the coast, especially when the wind blows. And when the rains come, they usually come from the south, meaning...yes...nasty headwinds. June is a much better bet weather-wise. Have fun!

Offline cgarch

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #8 on: March 10, 2010, 04:00:57 pm »
Suggest you check out for this route (Pacific Coast). Plenty of journals that cover this stretch complete with experiences and time frames. We took three weeks and we're happy with it. One suggestion  - if you have to stop at Manchester Beach SP, near Pt. Arena, CA, suggest you use the KOA. The state park is in poor condition with no showers. The KOA has showers and laundry.

Offline judyrans

Re: portland to SF realistic time frame and advice needed
« Reply #9 on: April 18, 2010, 01:37:05 am »
While bicycling the Lewis & Clark Trail we rode from near Portland International Airport to Seaside in two days. We were in a group, so the camping arangements we used may not be available to everyone. We camped at Portland International Raceways and watched the Bicycle Races, in the Clatskanie City Park, and ended our trip in Seaside. There are motels in Portland, Clatskanie and Seaside, too. You could use the last Adventure Cycling Lewis & Clark Trail map, and/or Michael McCoy's Bicycling the Lewis & Clark Trail, or Tod Rogers' Bicycle Guide to the Lewis & Clark Trail . Hint: Be sure to look at, and

Astoria has a really interesting Maritime Museum. If you are really hard core, ride up the hill to the Astoria Tower! Fort Clatsop, between Astoria and Seaside is really interesting. It's a rebuilt version of where L&C wintered on the west coast.

A friend and I (women, one over 50, one 64) rode from Astoria to Crescent City, CA in 6 days. We had a sag driver for 4 of the 6 days and stayed in motels. As we slowly worked our way up one steep road, two young fellows pulling trailers passed us. One had his gear plus two surfboards. So, you know we weren’t very fast.

Then three friends joined us (oldest 74 male). We took 6 days to ride to San Francisco.
So, figure 14 riding days to get some senior citizens from Portland to San Francisco, mostly sagged. Adjust accordingly for your age, fitness, and gear you are packing.